Coach's Corner

Coach Willingham is trying a different approach to spring training. Different for Washington, maybe, but not for Coach Willingham. Basically, all programs get 15 practices to use whenever they'd like to from January to June.

There are actually some teams that have already begun practices with a few like BYU that have already completed them. Washington has traditionally spread the 15 practices throughout the month of April with roughly 4 per week. Once they completed those practices then they usually begin spring recruiting visitations.

This year the Huskies will have a condensed three weeks of practices with the Spring Game on Saturday the 28th of April, and then leave immediately the next day for recruiting visits.

Coach Willingham has decided to delay the start of drills until the 9th of April rather than beginning immediately after the student-athletes return from their spring vacations. He is not necessarily using the 15 allotted days to simulate actual season practices, but will have at least three full contact scrimmages in April.

The Huskies will host past players and football lettermen on Sat. April 14th in their first full out contact then host their annual High School Coaches Clinic the following weekend on the 20th and 21st. These are both important parts of Coach Willingham's commitment to the traditions of Washington Football as well as the development of the game of football in the northwest.

The Huskies will have the same number of hitting days because there are rules that restrict those kinds of practices. It will be an intensified spring camp with position meetings, group meetings, as well as contact and non-contact practices. The 20 work hours per week rule goes back into effect so no day will be more than 4 hours of work.

Washington, of course, needs to make the most of these practices simply because they missed the 15 bowl practices. The teams that need those extra practices the most don't get them. Go figure. It really encourages schools to play soft pre-league games to insure themselves of those important and extra practices.

One alternative would be to give everyone the same number of practices regardless if you go to a bowl or not.

Because Washington is on the quarter system, their students have traditionally returned home the last two weeks of March or taken some sort of a trip during their week and a half break at this time of year. It never made much sense to me to condition your players all winter long only to have them do nothing over the break and return in worst shape then when they left.

By delaying the beginning of spring camp, Willingham hopes that his program will have enough conditioning practices (almost two weeks worth) to get his team ready for some heavy duty action. That could greatly reduce soreness and hopefully injuries. They will be biting at the bit to get a chance to hit by the time they hit the field on April 9th.

Washington's overall depth really hurts at this time of year as they barely have enough numbers to scrimmage with. Consequently, they will be careful not to lose bodies to work with.

The start of every quarter is always a distraction to the player's routines. They are divided in their attention and have important considerations like which women are in their classes and where those women and classes might be located. It's tough for kids to balance priorities, especially in the fall and spring quarters when the weather is better and the girls wear clothing that reflects the sunnier skies.

So, the Huskies will only have three weeks of practice to make drastic improvements. They have one of the toughest schedules in recent memory, in case they needed further motivation. Spring practices are all about refreshing the blocking and tackling skills without hurting one another.

Two players that should contribute right away this spring by entering early are high school quarterback Ronnie Fouch and JC kicker Jared Ballman. Ballman really needs to get into football if only to help him overcome a horrific personal tragedy. He is currently enrolled and involved and is ready to compete. Fouch immediately competes at quarterback simply because Carl Bonnell will be missing spring due to surgery to repair a bum shoulder on his non-throwing arm. Although still slight of build at 6-1, 185, Fouch won a championship each of the last two years at a high school that was 2-47 before he became the starting quarterback. As a senior, he threw for 23 touchdowns against only eight interceptions. As a junior he threw for 34 TD's with only 4 picks. He threw for close to 5,000 yards his last two seasons. He is taking a tremendous leap in playing levels, but he couldn't have asked for a better opportunity to immediately help the team. Timing is everything and his is really quite unique.

The players will be entering their third spring under Coach Willingham and with the exception of a couple of departures, the coaching staff returns. To only lose one coach per year is normal attrition and the nucleus of the staff has stayed intact. This continuity is essential for success, and schedule aside, this should be a really critical year to show some major improvements.

The most important and obvious position of interest this spring will be at the quarterback position where the top two candidates represent the youngest battery in America. I am here to tell you to not hold your breath, because Jake Locker is a contact player. He is a tough guy playing quarterback. He likes to run and he likes to hit. He won't get hurt. He will move the chains with his feet and his arm. You want another Tui? Get ready, because it's about to happen. Jake Locker will have a great spring and he and Carl will be ready to compete again next fall.

This team will be better next fall because they will get more done this spring because the players now know what is expected of them. Top Stories